Dream SB presents a Catholic case for immigration action

How are we called upon to treat the migrant? Christ, a migrant from the inn at Bethlehem to His forty days in the desert, compels us to seek out the least among us. But a cruel alternative has developed: legislation and global indifference that close our communities and borders to the most vulnerable. In doing so, we reject our Catholic obligation.

Fr. Dan Groody, CSC, Associate Professor of theology and Global Affairs and Director of the Global Leadership Program at Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute, suggests that we would “deport our own souls” with legislation that denies human dignity to immigrants. He explained: “Migration is not just a political issue, but a spiritual one. To address the core problems, one has to go to the imagination and connect both our hearts and our heads. They are us. If we don’t have the heart to see something of us in them, then we have deported our souls.”

Globalization has increased human migration. Today, according to the United Nations there are 258 million people who have emigrated and according to the UN Refugee Agency there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced people. In America, the debate ricochets from DACA to refugees, and approaching consensus seems more difficult with each passing day. However, I would argue that our duty is as clear as ever. Catholics and all people of good will are called to see Christ in the immigrant and reflect His love towards them through inclusive action. More people must leave their homes to seek a safe and prosperous life, and the most vulnerable people exist on the margins of our society as a symptom of social indifference. This is when Christ is most present.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Justice for Immigrants campaign advocates for immigration reform that aligns with Catholic Social Teaching. In its plea to Congress, the USCCB endorses legislation with humane and proportionate border security, sanctuary for unaccompanied children, and protections that ultimately lead to citizenship for America’s 1.8 million DREAMers. The bishops emphasize the importance of family as our social foundation and therefore support legislation pursued with integrity that does not bargain one piece of legislation for another or children for their parents.

Fr. Groody explains that a theology of migration seeks “to see God Himself as a migrant in Jesus … who calls us to be in solidarity with everyone else on that journey, especially those who are migrating today.”  According to Fr. Groody, since Jesus migrated to our broken, human world in poverty, He now calls us to pilgrimage with Him in our pursuit of salvation. Since Catholicism’s core message is achieving communion with God and migrating towards the kingdom of God, it is of utmost importance that we provide special care for vulnerable travelers who embody the image of Christ.

Despite this moral vision, many people still feel torn between obligations to sovereignty and their faith. Aquinas, in his conception of the common good and laws, provides precedent. According to Aquinas, all laws must promote the common good and, should two laws contradict one another, the one that does not promote the common good is invalid and should be rejected.

The USCCB’s position demonstrates that our current immigration laws and proposals do not promote the common good.  We are called to reject such cruelty and to act within the parameters of civil engagement and the Church’s charity. As Christ tells us: “What you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Pope Francis called for action in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, saying, “The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!” He likens our dispassion to that of the priest and Levite who ignored the bleeding traveler in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Instead, he calls us to be like the Samaritan who violated his cultural norms to care for the vulnerable. We must look beyond borders and see the human suffering caused by our indifference to the conditions our brothers and sisters are forced to live in. Once injustice is clear, action can spring forth and we can protect our neighbors, both at our doors and across the world. Through civic action and the Church, we can promote a culture of love and dignity.

On March 2, Dream SB, a group of students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross, will march from Holy Cross’ campus to Sen. Donnelly’s office. We will ask for his commitment, along with that of Representative Walorski (R) and Senator Young (R), to defend human dignity in upcoming DACA negotiations and future measures on comprehensive immigration reform. If your faith compels you to act, contribute to our campaign by calling your legislators with the USSCB’s guidelines, signing this petition (http://bit.ly/2BcIcMu), and joining us in our walk in solidarity with our DREAMer brothers and sisters.

Gwen McCain is a sophomore living in Lewis hall. This piece was written with the help of other members in Dream SB. She can be reached at gmccain@nd.edu.